Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far: https://largeassmovieblogs.com/2017/01/the-lamb-devours-the-oscars-2017-roster.html
Today, Bubbawheat from Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights is here to look at the nominees for Best Animated Short.
While I may be known for superhero movies over at my main site, I have always loved animation in all forms and am glad to return to once again take a look at the latest crop of animated short films to round out this year’s Oscar nominees for the Lamb Devours the Oscars. Often, this is a category that features many different styles of animation and this year is no different. Most of the films run quite short at only 5 to 7 minutes long with just a single nominee being over 30 minutes. One day, I would like to have the chance to see these shorts in the theaters, but the nearest theater to me sold out well before I even realized when it was being shown.
This was the only short that I had seen before preparing for this post as it screened before Finding Dory. Pixar is always on the forefront of computer animated technology and they are becoming masters at making characters that look and feel photorealistic and yet are still stylized just enough to create personality and character with simple gestures and expressions. Watching this again still blows me away at how absolutely gorgeous it looks. The water, the sand, the feathers, and the attention to detail in the movement of the birds as they avoided the breaking waves. And they’re still able to tell a compelling story without any dialogue. Though this time around I did notice that there is an odd message at heart. While it is adorable to see the young bird conquer its fear of the water and become a master at finding food, there’s an odd element of human-like greed and abundance when you look a little closer. Instead of just getting the food it needs to survive, it uses its newfound skill to gain an excess of food, though I’m certain many would simply call me out for overanalyzing a six minute cartoon.
Pearl is the one short that is an experiment in new technology. This was made for the relatively new 360 degree video format championed by Google which made for a unique but frustrating viewing experience. With most movies there is a certain amount of cinematography and mise en scene which creates a specific frame and places the characters, backgrounds, and props in very specific locations within that frame. But with the 360 degree video, the frame is gone and you as the viewer get to decide how to frame the film at any given point in time. This is made easier when viewing through a VR headset, but viewing it on my computer on YouTube made the experience fall somewhere between wonder and frustration. The camera is situated roughly in the passenger seat of a car and we get to experience flashes of the life of a singer/songwriter and his daughter as she grows up. Most of the action happens in the driver’s seat and backseat, and it’s not always easy to know exactly where to point the camera. Not only that, but since it is such a short film, and the scenes are so brief, it’s incredibly easy to miss something. All that aside, the film does have a nice heart to it and it helps that the song is good too. It doesn’t feel like it’s showing anything new as far as the characters are concerned. We see a free spirited guy become a practical father to a rebellious and free spirited daughter, and it comes back around for a sweet ending.
Borrowed Time feels much more like a prototypical Oscar short film. It looks beautiful, but not Pixar-level gorgeous, and it’s the one short that feels the most abstract while still telling a complete story. In a brief seven minutes, we get to see a compelling story of a man coming to grips with his past. It doesn’t have much dialogue, but it works very well without it, combining flashbacks to flesh out the reasons why this man is at the top of a desolate cliff, seemingly about to commit suicide. I will say right now, that of all the shorts, this one is my favorite. It has such a unique style to it even though at first glance it feels like it could be one of those straight-to-video animated mockbuster movies trying to capitalize on the latest big budget animated film. But it’s so much more than that, and well worth watching.
This film more than any of the others feels like it is included in these nominees due to its content more than its craft. It tells a tale reminiscent of an Aesop’s Fable that turns a moral into a fantastic story that feels like a legend that has been passed down from generation to generation. Vaysha is a woman who was born with one eye that can only see the past, and her other eye can only see the future, cursed to never be able to see the present. The tale is narrated by a single voice and is well told in a way that gets you thinking about what is most important in life and how important it is to be mindful of the present without getting too caught up in either the past or the future. The animation style is extremely stylized and rather simplistic, but it makes excellent use of framing, especially as it shows the incongruity of Vaysha’s sight between her left and right eyes and how much of a curse it is. Like when she cannot find love as any man who speaks to her, she sees as both a young boy and an old man.
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
The final short I’m discussing here is also the longest at 35 minutes. This is biographical tale about the writer’s friend Techno, his life and eventual death. It’s narrated in a way that makes it feel very much like a noir film, as the narrator himself has one of those gravelly voices that seems like he’s lived a hard life himself. The story is very compelling as we hear about Techno who goes from an incredibly athletic young kid to someone who gets mixed up with the wrong people to someone struggling with a long term disease and the loneliness that comes with it. The story itself is compelling to begin with, and it’s accentuated with a unique style of animation that’s incredibly exaggerated. There’s also an element of repetition that feels more like a cost-saving technique rather than one to enhance the story. But through the 35 minutes, we get to see not only the kind of person Techno was, but also by proxy the kind of person that Robert Valley was and is.
I’m not one who typically makes many Oscar predictions especially since I’ve seen so few of the nominees, but I did really enjoy all of the entries in the animated short category. I imagine that the going favorite is Piper since it is so hard to get past how absolutely stunning it looks. But I would love it if the underdog Borrowed Time won.